Sometimes your luck just runs out…

Although the weather reports had been predicting rain, rain and more rain, for the first five biking days we had been really fortunate.  The rain DID come, but it was either at night, or in the early morning, ending before we started riding, until our last biking day.  But we were READY.  We all donned our foul weather gear, and Diane improvised–using the hotel shower cap to cover her helmet.

Poncho

My poncho was flapping wildly in the wind. As they whipped past, my co-bikers shouted that I looked like: the Red Baron, ET, the flying nun, Batman, –but the most popular was the witch from the Wizard of Oz. That got a couple of votes.  I admired their creativity, but wondered why Karen didn’t get similar comments on HER poncho. Her theory? She didn’t look quite so ridiculous.  Unfortunately, with the rain coming down, we weren’t able to get action shots, so you could see for yourself, and offer YOUR opinion.

Our wonderful guides, Hana and Andy, gave us several options that weren’t part of the day’s original plan.  Several of us chose the newest option, a SHORT ride –9 miles.  Our mother/ daughter team (Beth and Susan) are real troopers (or masochists), riding the full 16 miles to Melk.

One of the bonuses of our VBT  trips is the people we meet.  We all loved the Midwestern ladies.  Beth was especially grateful for Jessie, who made the return trip from Melk with Susan.  Marcia, Jessie’s sister, was equally grateful for Susan.  Otherwise, Beth and Marcia would have felt compelled to ride back, in the RAIN, with their crazed biker relative.

Our new Midwestern friends: Jessie, Marcia, Karla, and Mary
Our new Midwestern friends: Jessie, Marcia, Karla, and Mary

We’ve declared the Midwestern ladies honorary “Biker Chicks” and hope that they will join us for our ride in 2016.  Here’s Jessie, atop St. Michael’s church tower.

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Back in the day, churches were multipurpose, serving as fortresses AND places of worship. Why not use good time management and fit in a few prayers while you are shooting your arrows?

The tower has been modernized, with lovely art work, so you have something to gaze upon as you climb to the top.

Inside St. michael's church tower
Inside St. michael’s church tower

Also on the ride from our hotel in Weissenkirchen to Melk was a 25,000 year old statue of Venus. But she was high on the hill, it was raining, so I figured I’d just google her. When I did, I learned the one atop the hill is a replica and the real one is here in Vienna!  Wise decision on my part, wouldn’t you say?

Melk was yet another over the top example of the wealth of the Catholic Church.  Our guide explained that God had to be greater than the emperor, so the churches, and his chosen ones had to have the proper wardrobe.  There were capes that Elvis could have worn, Michael Jackson gloves, and Liberace shoes.

The gloves
The gloves

Here are a few more shots of Melk which will likely use up my Internet allotment for the day.

Spiral staircase
Spiral staircase

About that Castle…

imageCesky Krumlov is a lovely medieval town perched on the top of a high hill, filled with restaurants, shops, and a castle with a story, which I now know.

The castle was built around 1250 by the Rosenbergs, who lived there for about 600 years till the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II took a fancy to it.  I’m sure there were lots of battles and other really important historical events connected with the castle, but the story that I liked the most was about the Rosenberg son who married for love, against the wishes of his father.  That marriage was annulled, so that son could make a more appropriate match, one that came with a large dowry.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of a delay in the payment of the dowry, so son (whose name escapes me, but I’ll bet you don’t care either) sent his blushing bride home.  It took about 10 years, numerous bake sales and car washes for the family to come up with the requisite sum.  By the time the two love birds got together, Mrs. Rosenburg was getting on in years.  She consulted a priest or some other magical power fellow, so when she gave birth at age 42, it was declared a miracle, resulting in canonization of the miracle worker.  (No, not the husband, the magical fellow).  Personally, I think if anyone should have been canonized, it should have been Mrs. Rosenburg, for putting up with that nonsense.  I had a good look at The Lord of the manor, and let me tell you, he was no prize. If I had been sent home, I would have stayed there and used the dowry money to travel. But maybe that’s just me.

The view from the castle is spectacular, well worth the climb up the hill.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t take photos IN the castle, so I’ll have to describe the coat of arms of one of the later families, who moved in when the Hapsburgs tired of it. Picture a severed head, sporting a fu Manchu mustache dangling at an angle, with a black bird pecking at his eyes. That’s because the Schwartzenbergs defeated the Turks and the grateful emperor rewarded them with that stunning visual.

After much wandering, discussions, and menu viewing, the biker chicks decided to dine at our hotel. We had drinks and appetizers on the terrace, then moved inside for dinner once it got cold.

Karen, Beth and Susan
Karen, Beth and Susan

 

Diane and Karen

Diane and Karen

On our last day in Cesky Krumlov, we took a train part way through the forest, then biked across what was once the iron curtain, so of course we took advantage of the photo op.
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Our Last Day in the Czech Republic

 

My friends and sisters would be shocked. I’m on my SECOND beer! No, not my second beer today–my second beer in three days–but still. Plus, I’m drinking alone, although in my mind, I am with YOU, my blogging buddies. That counts, right?

What’s next? Smoking cigarettes?

Drinking beer again?
Drinking beer again?

Our group is meeting our guide in an hour for a tour of the Cesky Krumlov castle, so I decided this is the perfect time to hang in an outdoor cafe. It’s relatively near our meeting spot and equipped with wifi. Who could ask for anything more?

Unlike the good ol USA, in the Czech Republic, cafés don’t rush you and the servers don’t circle around,trying to get you to spend more money. I’m the only one here who is not speaking Czech, so I suspect I had the good fortune to stumble into a place that only the locals patronize. Sometimes having a lousy sense of direction turns out to be a good thing.

But I am indeed on a bike trip, and ride we did this morning.  Here’s proof.  The two Karens and Susan are doing their Czech imitation, while I am flashing my “American smile”. That actually is a term here in the Czech Republic. Hana, our guide, explains that the Czech don’t smile much, so to them, we Americans appear always to be grinning broadly. And why not? When THEY see us, we are on vacation, enjoying their beautiful country.

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The Czech countryside is lovely, with lots of rolling hills, farmland and woods. One of those rolling hills today was a KILLER. I made it halfway and walked the rest of the way to the top, as did many in our group. But at least we tried.

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This cow was just BEGGING to have her photo taken.
This cow was just BEGGING to have her photo taken.

We had a wonderful lunch at a home in the little town of Plav.

Tom, one of the four men in our group (out of twenty participants) took a little spin on the tractor, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to back it into the “garage”. A wise decision on his part.

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About half of us decided to get back to Cesky Krumlov via 4 wheels instead of 2,  so we’d have time to explore (or blog and drink beer).

I don’t know anything yet about the castle that dominates the skyline, other than that a bear lives in what I imagine was once the moat.

Bet you thought I was kidding about the bear.
Bet you thought I was kidding about the bear.

Tomorrow morning, we will take a train to Passau, Germany and will spend the rest of the day riding there. At some point there WILL be a quiz and the usual historical stuff, but for now, I’m just experiencing the culture of the country, where Pilsner was invented, and Budweiser got its start.